When you hear the terms strategy and tactics, what do you think of? It is extremely common for people to confuse the two ideas. In fact, many people believe that strategy and tactics mean the exact same thing. There is a clear difference between the two, and having a proper understanding of each is extremely important.So let’s start with a simple definition of the strategy and tactics:

Strategy is a well-planned, comprehensive vision aimed at reaching specific goals.

Tactics on the other hand are practical steps you take and tasks you do that stay in line with, as well as help accomplish, your strategy.

An analogy for this would be the war. Strategy is what you do before a war, i.e. plan and prepare for an unexpected war. While tactics are what you do in the war, i.e. efficiently execute the war strategy.

So you may be wondering at this point… so what? Why is this important? A proper understanding and application of strategy and tactics is key to successfully reaching your business goals. What I commonly see from businesses is that they tend to heavily focus on one over the other. They either have a solid vision of reaching specific business goals, yet don’t know how they can get there. Or they blindly execute and try a number of different tactics, with no specific vision or tangible goal in mind. Basically, you either have visionaries with no action, or you have doers with no clear direction. Success requires both working in harmony together.

An example of this was briefly discussed in one of my previous blogs, “Do Businesses Need to Blog?” Basically our goal was to have a strong online presence, and one of our strategies to accomplish this goal was to drive more traffic to our website. So a tactic we implemented was blogging and video tutorials. We wanted to provide value to the web development, marketing and other various communities by sharing our knowledge and experiences. Through this, we were are not only able to help individuals, but we were accomplishing our vision by increasing our traffic on our website by over 8x what it normally was! Now this didn’t happen overnight. It required some trial and error, and we found ourselves making adjustments to our tactics, but our strategy stayed constant. Strategy should be a long-term objective, while tactics can be short-term. Once a strategy has been established, it should not change, unless the vision as a whole has changed.

Another example of strategy and tactics is seen in the game of chess. The goal of the game is to win by checkmating the opponents king. In order to do this, one must have a well planned strategy. In chess there are countless number of defensive and offensive strategies where players know before the game even starts: what areas of the board to control, what their pawn structure will be, and what pieces must be protected in order for their strategy to work. On the other hand, tactics are the practical moves you make that line up with your strategy. A single tactical error that strays away from your well planned vision could literally ruin your entire strategy, as well as cost you the game. In the same way, your tactics ought to align with your business strategies, or else it will likely lead to failure.

Your business goals should determine your strategies, which in turn forms your tactics. Always start with what your business goals are, and work your way down from there. Blindly trying different tactics to accomplish a poorly planned strategy will only lead to frustration and failure, and creating a strategy without evaluating and establishing solid business goals will also do the same. I hope that understanding the difference between strategies and tactics has not only been helpful, but that in properly applying them, you and your team can successfully reach your goals. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to continue the conversation below!